People, Environment

MP Censures DOE Over Hospital Waste

MP Censures DOE Over Hospital WasteMP Censures DOE Over Hospital Waste

A member of the Majlis (Parliament) Environment and Sustainable Development faction has criticized the head of the Department of Environment over the department’s alleged  mishandling of hospital waste.

“Aside from their inability to address more pressing environmental issues, the DOE has also failed to resolve the problems associated with hospital waste,” ISNA quoted Mehrdad Ba’ouj Lahouti as saying.

Lahouti, who represents Langroud, Gilan Province, accused the department and its chief Massoumeh Ebtekar of failing to “use the legal tools made available to them” to tackle the extended problem.

“It seems that the head of the department needs to take the job more seriously,” he said in the latest broadside against the embattled DoE and Ebterkar who also is a vice president.

The lawmaker said the DOE could have cooperated with the Health Ministry on the matter, “but they did not even do that.”

Despite the harsh rhetoric, he did not spell out workable solutions to the waste problem and other environmental degradation issues the country has been grappling with for decades, namely the rapidly dwindling water resources, climate change  and air, noise and water pollution.

  Poor Monitoring

Around 40% of hospital waste water, or leachate, enters Tehran’s underground and surface water network.

According to Tehran Municipality, 8% of Tehran’s 150 hospitals lack wastewater treatment facilities while a whopping 34% are equipped with deficient or malfunctioning facilities.

Despite their importance, wastewater treatment facilities are not usually considered in hospital designs, due to their high costs, according to Ali-Mohammad Sha’eri, head of the Environment and Sustainable Development office at the municipality.

“Regular monitoring of hospitals by relevant bodies is essential in ensuring hospitals’ compliance with environmental codes,” Sha’eri suggested.

“The Ministry of Health must provide public hospitals with sufficient funds to set up efficient wastewater treatment systems and facilities.”

  Routine Criticism

Criticizing the DOE’s Ebtekar and her department has become a sort of permanent fixture of conservative lawmakers who pour scorn on the organization and its head whenever they get the opportunity.

Ebtekar’s critics became more vocal in October, when a small group of DOE employees staged a peaceful protest outside the department’s headquarters in Tehran, demanding better pay and work conditions.

The incident received wide coverage in the rightist press and a handful of media outlets were accused of exaggerating the incident.

“Environmental conservation transcends petty politics,” Ebtekar said in response to    criticism from a number of legislators.

“Some people are trying to take (undue) advantage of the recent protest, which was attended by less than 5% of the Tehran Province’s DOE employees.”

She lambasted the “sensationalist media” but noted that every government employee “has a right to voice dismay.”

The administration in general and the embattled DoE in particular have often pledged to tackle environmental issues with added resolve and determination.

Supporters of the DOE usually cite the department’s low annual budget of $52 million and visible lack of clout as the main obstacle preventing progress in addressing grave environmental issues.

“With such small funds, how are we expected to pay employees what they deserve?” Esmaeil Kahrom, a senior adviser to Ebtekar, said earlier this year.

“DOE employees receive some of the lowest salaries among government workers. I urge the Parliament take this into consideration when it passes next year’s budget,” the outspoken aide who is an authority on the environment was quoted as saying.